Paris marathon tips – 26.2 to get you started
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Last Updated on 24th July 2020
The Paris Marathon is the unofficial number 7 in the world after the “big six” of London, Berlin, Chicago, Boston, New York and Tokyo. With a start line along the Champs Élysées it’s certainly a marvellous location if you want to tick a foreign marathon off your “bucket list”. Applying in October for the April race I got in straight in too. No ballot for this event! So those Paris marathon tips? Here they are with a few coming from my dad Roger who’s run over 895 marathons:
1, Choose Paris in the first place!
It’s great having the start and finish areas for the Paris Marathon just a few 100m apart. There are two big beautiful parks enroute. A long flat stretch along the River Seine plus a fairly chilled out atmosphere too!
2, Get a nice hotel near the start
We didn’t have to leave our Champs Elysées hotel until 08:45, to be in my pen for 08:55, for my 09:20 start. That compares with getting up at 5am for the New York City marathon! We chose the Hotel Belmont just south of the Champs Élysées and that suited us perfectly.
3. Medical certificate
Now this is one of my key Paris Marathon tips! Make sure you get your certificate way in advance of the marathon date … and that it mentions “no contra-indication to athletics in competition” or “no contra-indication to running in competition.” Download a template version from their website to make sure. It can be dated up to 12 months prior to the race date so don’t wait until just 10 days before like I did! I had to go private and pay £100 for mine. No medical certificate = no marathon!
4. Keep an eye on the website
Check out all the race-day information at https://www.schneiderelectricparismarathon.com. A perfect place for official Paris Marathon tips.
5. Register at the expo!
Don’t forget to register at the Parc des Expositions de la Porte de Versailles when you arrive in Paris. We went late Friday afternoon to pick up my race number and to soak up the atmosphere.
6, Order a pace band from Asics
… and then pick it up when you register! They’re a great way of correctly pacing your race, especially at the start when you might go off too quickly! The ones they provided had timings for the first kilometre and then every 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 + the finish line. Alternatively have a GPS watch that has a pace guide on it so you know whether you’re heading off too fast or too slow.
7. Try some freebie nibbles at the expo
… but watch out for the exotic fruit sellers! By all means try some but don’t allow them to fill up a whole bag! At over €6 per 100g ours came to €65 so we politely refused and walked away
8. Take the standard ‘bib number and nice background’ shot!
We stumbled across the UK stand who had a great background of the start looking back towards the Arc de Triomphe. That became my pre-race Instagram photo.
9. The smartphone app
Get friends to download the official Paris Marathon iPhone App so they can see where you are out on the course. The Paris one reported back every 5km – but that’s good enough to get an idea of where roughly your runner is and when to start looking out for them.
Some more Paris Marathon tips? If you’re new to Paris resist the urge to do TOO much walking when you arrive. We’d visited Paris many times before so didn’t feel the need to do any sightseeing until after the race. We rewarded ourselves with a ride around Paris in a vintage 2CV the day after the marathon, but you might prefer to do that a few days before.
Agree with supporters where EXACTLY they should stand! That means what side of the road and on which exact bit of ground. Using a kilometre or mile marker as a reference point is a good idea! Better still get them to stand on a little footstool, hold a big balloon, or even hold a blown up picture of your face on a stick. My girlfriend borrowed my Nepalese cow bell so was able to “dong” that when I was in view to give me a better chance of spotting her.
12. Add your name to your shirt
Write your name in big bold letters on the front of your shirt/vest. It’s amazing how much a “shout out” from a random stranger can lift you up. For the Paris marathon you were also able to add a nickname on your application so it was nice to get a few shouts on the way round of “Go on Biggsy!”. Even “Go on Biggy!” was appreciated.
13. No liquid gels – just sweets
If you’re used to training with gels or have run other marathons that hand them out nearer the end of the race remember that this marathon instead has banana/orange/raisin stations plus one hard gel stop towards the end. So carry liquid gels with you if that’s what you’re used to.
14. Huge park for wee stops between 5.5 and 12 miles
After about 5 miles you might be getting through the water and fancy taking a pee!? Fortunately there’s a huge expanse of park called Bois de Vincennes to the east with many trees to hide behind if nature calls!
15. Watch out for inclines out of the tunnels
At roughly 16 to 18 miles you go through a serious of road tunnels parallel to the River Seine. You don’t notice them in a car but boy do you notice them on the day. The inclines are steeper than you think so I didn’t let them take me too much by surprise and just walked up them all.
16, Don’t slip on all the orange peels
The drinks stations have handfuls of cut oranges and bananas to feast on! However don’t have a comedy moment and slip in either of them! The orange peels were all over the place so I took it as an excuse to take a little walk each time and enjoy taking in some cool juicy vitamin C
17, Drink stations are just water – not Lucozade
Once again here at the Paris marathon the drinks stations may be different to what you’re used too. There is no shortage of Vittel bottled water ut there are no isotonic, Lucozade type drinks at the drinks stations
18, “Allez! Courage! Bravo!”
If you’re plugged into your iPod all race you’ll miss out on all the uplifting French shouts of encouragement! My favourite being from a French lady at about the 30km point who shouted at me “Allez! Courage! Bravo!” That got me running again after a brief interlude of walking. In fact I wore my headphones around my neck all race in case I needed to listen to some uplifting tunes but never used them once.
19. Listen out for the drumming bands
Further to number 18 above there’s something ever so tribal about the beat of a banging drum. There must have been about a dozen out on the course and it really does put a stride back into your step … briefly lol
20. Smile 🙂
There are many official photo points out on the course! I got “papped” 4-5 times and bought one of the photos as a result. You’re probably thinking you won’t buy one, but if you don’t get photographed then you’ll never have the chance to change your mind.
21. The main distance markers are in kilometres!
They do have mile markers too but the kilometres ones stand out more. You are in France where they use the metric system after all! At kilometre 23 I’d brieflty switched off and thought (hoped) I only had 3.2 miles to go, when in reality I was only just over halfway! So either get into the 42km mindset from the start or try your best to ignore them and look out for the 26 mile markers instead.
22. Funny signs and “High Fives”
Read the funny banners people have made to hold up on the side of the road. Now the New York marathon had dozens of these! Fewer at the Paris marathon but then I’m not very good at reading French. I did see various power-up button signs for you to tap on as you run past them that were a nice distraction! Anything to raise a smile.
23. Marvel at the Fondation Louis Vuitton building
It’s in the park called Bois de Boulogne, which is about a mile from the finish! You’ve pretty much done it at this point so can bask in the final 10 minute run-in to the finish line.
24. Flip Flops
If there’s one thing I love doing that’s taking off the running shoes at the end of the race and sliding your feet into some comfy, airy flips flops! Have your spectators bring you some at the end or have some stashed in your baggage that you pick up at the finish.
25. Arc de Triomphe finish photo shot
Join the hundreds of other runners who amble up to the Arc de Triomphe to have a medal “selfie”. The more energetic ones doing “jumping in the air” photos. The more sedate doing a pretend bite of their medals like Rafa Nadal.
26. Have a post marathon beer / Coke Zero
After 3 months of very little alcohol you would have thought I would have fancied a beer, or even a shandy, which according to a nutritionist I know is one of the best things you can drink post race. On this occasion though I had a strange craving for 2 cans of Coke Zero from Pret! However you might want to stick a can of your favourite beer into your finish baggage too.
.. and 2 bonus Paris Marathon tips!
26.1. Wear your medal that evening
We chose to a meal at the beautiful Petit Chatelet restaurant overlooking the Notre Dame. I was told I was could wear the medal that evening but not to be one of those types who insists on wearing it the next day too! 😉
26.2. Check the official photos a few days’ later
You’ll most likely receive an email 1-2 days later with a link to your photos! See if they captured your best side or if your smile was more of a grimace!
Now you’ve now read my Paris marathon tips who’s tempted to sign up for next year’s race? If you need some more convincing check out The Runner Bean’s Paris marathon tips too! Or for something completely different try to get tennis tickets for the French Open at Roland Garros.
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Nice one Biggsy! We stayed in an AirBnB just up from the Arc de Triomphe and wholeheartedly agree that staying close to the start/finish is a great idea. We also learned that next time we would get a place with a bath rather than just a shower so that we could soak those aching legs at the end. I would also recommend doing the Bois de Bologne Parkrun (gently!) the day before. Playing ‘spot the Paris Marathon runner’ before the race at the airport/Eurostar station was a lot of fun. Playing ‘spot the Paris Marathon runner’ on the day after in Paris was easy – just look at the walk!
Yes Neil – hopefully this year’s runners are considering the Parkrun too. I’m envious I’m not doing the marathon again this year but I’ve only managed one 30 minute run this year due to being injured 🙁
Brilliant write up – thank you. Have booked my place for 2019 and so looking forward to it. Would you advice booking hotel 6 months ahead or leave it till Feb 2019?
Hey Gina – I work for a travel company so was able to book mine way in advance. Maybe try getting one early too on Booking.com where you are only reserving it. Then if something better comes along you can cancel 🙂 We got one just south of the Champs Elysees so we only had a 5 minute walk to the start in the morning.
Oh and Gina please make sure you have your doctor’s certificate in good time. I had to pay £100+ as I left it to the last minute
Thanks for the tips Biggsy. I know Paris well, and have reccied the route, but I wanted to ask about the terrain in the woods. 26.2 miles on tarmac (+ a few cobbles) is quite hard on the legs. Do they barrier off the roads in the woods (Bois de Vincennes and Bois de Boulogne) so you are obliged to run on the tarmacked road surface or is there a chance for you to run on the dirt tracks to give your legs some respite?
Hi Maria 🙂 I don’t recall running on the dirt tracks myself but I wasn’t aware of any barriers either. Of course depending on where you are in the parks there may be a sufficient number of spectators huggung the course which would make it more difficult to run on the tracks/grass.